The Halo Bulletin: 9.25.13
It is officially fall in the Pacific Northwest. I know this not only because of the autumnal equinox, cloudy skies, and Seahawks winning game after game, but also the overabundance of 343 and UNSC hoodies that now decorate the suburb of Kirkland, Washington. As the weather gets colder and the days shorter, teams at 343 (likely donned in the aforementioned hoodies) stay warm, dry, and busy inside the studio walls. One of these teams is the Matchmaking Systems Team, which has been hard at work on next Monday's Matchmaking Update.
Matchmaking Playlist Update
This coming Monday, Matchmaking will receive several updates. The playlist receiving the most updates will be Team Snipers, so dust off your rifles and get ready for some new game types. If you frequent the Team Snipers playlist, you may refer to yourself as a headshotting hooligan. You also may be very excited about the following updates, so let's detail them.
Team Snipers will be receiving new and updated maps: Ragnarok has received heavily optimized respawns, with many of the mid-map respawn points being moved to reduce the frequency of gaining control at the "50-yard line" and continually spawn-killing the enemy. Additionally, the respawn points behind and in front of the bases have been optimized to reduce the frequency of spawning out in the open. Also, Pitfall will be added to the playlist alongside Community Forge maps "The Ark," made by The Fated Fire and "Opticon," made by SaItyKoalaBear.
The Ark offers a wide mix of sightlines and scenery that help players learn and understand the map relatively quickly. For a look around the map (and potentially a jump on your opponents), head here.
The Ark by The Fated Fire
Opticon brings a large arena-esque map into the Snipers mix, and offers challenging angles and sightlines into the middle structure, guaranteeing that securing map control will be no easy feat.
Opticon by SaItyKoalaBear
In addition to these updated maps, we've also added some variety with new game types. The first of these are Covenant and Forerunner Snipers, which will equip players with Beam Rifles and Binary Rifles, respectively. Also, the traditional Team Snipers variant will no longer have any on-map weapons, and each game type (Team Snipers, Covenant Snipers, and Forerunner Snipers) will feature single-weapon sniping experiences. We look forward to reviewing feedback regarding these game type updates. Also, we're excited to announce something new inspired by "No-Scopes Only" custom game types that have been popular in custom game lobbies for years. This coming Monday, Snapshot will make its premiere in Matchmaking.
In this new game type, only "un-zoomed" kills will add to your team score. Players will still be able to zoom in, and even kill opponents whilst in-scope, but these kills will not count towards your team score, and your team will be upset with you for being so foolish for zooming in with a Sniper Rifle.
Players will start with both the Beam Rifle and UNSC Sniper Rifle. Extensive playtesting went into this game type, and we decided to start players with the Beam Rifle as the primary weapon due to the fact that un-zoomed kills with this weapon come at a faster and smoother pace, and we believe that this leads to an optimal flow (as well as laughing, chaos, and epic multi-kills). As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback about this game type.
As we stated in the 9.11 Halo Bulletin, playlist consolidation will continue this coming week, with Multi-Team, Dominion, and Champions Bundle DLC giving up their permanent spot in the Matchmaking line-up. King of the Hill will be returning for a two-week period as our featured rotational playlist. We'll also be introducing Legendary KotH to the voting options, which will offer a slightly different experience that entails static hill movement and locked Loadouts. If you haven't completed the King of the Hill Victory Commendation yet, victory awaits!
In that same Bulletin, we mentioned that we have been investigating possible fixes for the primary known issues related to the Champions Bundle. We initially intended to release an update in late September, however this release is is now currently slated to drop in October. We will continue to provide updates regarding this, and also let you know the specific release date and change list once all details are finalized.
The Ricochet Forge Contest is ongoing, and the judge's panel has already begun to review some of the submitted maps. If you'd like to check out the submissions or throw your hat into the ring, head over to the Contest Submission Thread. As a reminder, the contest is running until 12:00 PM PT on October 8th, 2013, so if you'd like the chance for your map to be featured in Matchmaking, get on it.
Lastly, I mentioned last week that GH057ayame was hard at work on the v5 settings for Team Throwdown. These new settings are set to premiere in October before the next Arena Gaming League tournament, so I caught up with GH057ayame himself this week for an update. Take it away!
GH057ayame here with an important update on the upcoming "v5" settings that are slated to launch next month. The testing sessions have been going extremely well thus far, so certainly expect to enjoy an all-around better experience when playing the new maps and game types. Once these settings hit the Team Throwdown playlist, the major improvement that you'll notice is the enhanced spawn system implemented throughout the map variants. You'll also see a new weapon being utilized around a few of the maps - the Concussion Rifle.
Now, the next most noticeable changes will be to the game types themselves. We've seen a lot of discussion and feedback on which map variants and game types are admired (or not so admired) for the "v5" set. As of now, you can still expect to see some of your favorites (Haven Team Slayer, Haven Extraction, Abandon Team Slayer), but we are also looking into making our final decisions on the remainder of the combinations. Station 9 Extraction has received a ton of input and sparked a lot of discussion. Nevertheless, it will be surveyed appropriately just like the rest of the other options, i.e. Vertigo Extraction or The Ark Extraction.
And last but certainly not least, I'm excited to announce that we've been actively testing Ricochet for the "v5" settings! This game type has taken the Halo community by force, and we'd be happy to display how it fares in a true competitive environment. With that said, I'll be sure to provide more updates in the future, and make sure to follow me on Twitter for any news, comments, questions, or concerns. Thanks again to everyone helping out!
Community Game Type Highlight: Conversion
Over the next few months (and potentially beyond), I'll be highlighting noteworthy contributions from the community in the Bulletin. These may come in the form of maps, montages, and more. This week, I've decided to focus on a custom game type that has gained some steam and popularity over this past summer: Conversion. I had the chance to play this game type a few days after it was officially released, and was impressed by the new twist on an attack/defend round-based game type, which is based off of Extraction. There has been a significant amount of work on the game type since I last played, so I reached out to The Psycho Duck, one of the brains behind the project, to discuss the game type, where it came from, and where it is now. Enjoy!
Hey, The Psycho Duck! Thanks for joining us today to talk about Conversion. To start, tell us a bit about the game type.
The Psycho Duck: First, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to talk about the project that I've been working on for the last few months!
So, where to start? Conversion is an asymmetrical (one-sided) objective-based game mode in Halo 4 which uses the Extraction game mode as a base. The main concept of Conversion is that it is a progressive mode, meaning that as an objective is captured the map changes dynamically as it moves to the next objective. Conversion's clearest inspiration was Halo: Reach's Invasion mode, and while there are many similarities, Conversion absolutely retains its identity as its own unique game mode. Like Invasion, new weapons and vehicles will unlock and player spawns will move as teams progress from one objective to the next. However, Conversion is in some ways simpler than Invasion and comes with its own set of rules.
I've personally seen a lot of great feedback about the game type and also really enjoyed when I played. What about Conversion do you think people enjoy so much?
The Psycho Duck: I suppose that one cool thing about Conversion is that it is quite accessible. When everyone can pick it up and understand it right away, it allows everyone to enjoy different aspects of it for different reasons. For some, Conversion is an intense team-focused objective mode, for others it can be a casual bloodbath. Some people may like it merely due to its similarities to Invasion, and some may appreciate it because it provides a unique experience in Halo 4 as a one-sided mode. For me, Conversion is just a refined and balanced experience that allows for competitive encounters without any random game elements.
The custom-built maps are clearly a really important part of Conversion. Can you tell us a little bit about each, what they offer, and how they're different?
The Psycho Duck: Two completed purpose-built Conversion maps currently exist. These are Firebase (built on the Ravine Forge canvas) and Colony (built on the Impact canvas). The design of the maps is at least as important as the design of the game mode itself, as the way the objectives and routes are laid out is what really determines how Conversion plays. We knew that we wanted to unveil the mode with two finished maps to go with it, so we wanted each map to feel unique and the maps to sit on different sides of the spectrum. The point was to display the wide range of possibilities available in Conversion map designs. Firebase is smaller and simpler than Colony, with a focus on infantry combat and minor supportive vehicle gameplay. Since Colony was made after we had begun testing Firebase, we were able to apply things we had learned from the former in order to make Colony a more complex map overall. Colony provides for some larger scale encounters (while maintaining Conversion's ideal 6v6 player count) and some more intense vehicle combat. We knew that we wanted to get the most variety we could out of the two maps.
What guidelines have you had to follow in order to ensure that the game type plays the best on each map?
The Psycho Duck: The first step was to theorize exactly how Conversion gameplay should function in general. We didn't want to make any arbitrary decisions regarding how the mode would play, so we started with the big picture and gradually narrowed our focus. We found ourselves referring to some aspects of Invasion design theory as very rough guidelines, but made necessary changes to fit the frame we were working in. We determined how objective areas themselves might work, how other positions would work, and how all of these positions would interact. Then we began to think about how these areas would be affected as the game progressed from one objective to the next. At this point, we had a loose set of guidelines in place. These dictated a general design for objectives, power positions, and routes as well as things like when player spawns would move up and how weapons and vehicles would be unlocked. A big focus for us was to ensure that there were always important positions for teams to control in order to enhance their ability to attack or defend the objectives. Both of the maps follow the same basic pattern in regards to all of these factors, while maintaining their own unique features. There is a lot that goes into Conversion theory, just as there is a lot that goes into the theory of Dominion or Invasion.
Who else has contributed to the game type, and how many hours would you say have been put into the project?
The Psycho Duck: Conversion was primarily a two-man project, between Flying Shoe ILR and myself. Initially, I started on Conversion with Oakley HiDef (my cohort at The Halo Forge Epidemic YouTube channel). We ran into several roadblocks on the technical side of things with the game mode fairly quickly and put the project on hold. A while later, in late December of 2012 I asked Flying Shoe, a long-time forging friend if he would be interested in helping me tackle the project. We started working in early January, and finished sometime in August. We planned, we designed, we built, we tested, we tweaked, we tested more, we rebuilt. We played on each map hundreds of times with a huge number of people from around the community (thank you to everyone who contributed through being a tester and providing us with feedback) and gathered as much feedback as we could in order to make the maps and mode the best they could be. Finally, after some five or six months of testing we were satisfied with what we'd created. I couldn't even hazard a guess at how many hours were spent on it, somewhere between "a lot" and "more than a lot". Although we were limited in some ways by game options, we treated Conversion as if it were a game mode which could have shipped on Halo 4's game disc. We wanted to make sure it was as good as it could be before showing it to the world.
How did the game type / project compare to others you've done in Forge?
The Psycho Duck: Normally a project in Forge for me is merely a single map for an already-established game mode. Whenever I create a map, I set out to understand as much as I can about the design theory of the game type(s) the map is intended for and then I build the map and spend a few months testing it. Conversion was no different in this regard except that we first had to create the game type and determine what the design theory we'd be adhering to it would be. Conversion is a rather nuanced mode, and Forging maps for it is complicated. Designing the maps and mode simultaneously was a huge challenge. This was meant to be a mode that anyone could pick up and enjoy, and that other Forgers could eventually design their own maps for. So, while this incorporated all of the same elements usually present in a Forge project for me, this was on a much grander scale and had many new things to think about as well. Going back to forging BTB and Dominion maps after creating Conversion has felt quite straightforward in comparison.
Lastly, where can players download the latest version of the game type and corresponding maps?
The Psycho Duck: Players can download the game mode (Conversion) and the maps (Firebase and Colony) off of either my File Share or Flying Shoe ILR's.
Thanks for taking time to tell us about Conversion. Any shoutouts?
The Psycho Duck: Thanks again for the opportunity to talk about Conversion. I'd also like to thank my partner in crime Flying Shoe ILR, everyone who helped test the mode, and the Halo community and the creators of Halo as a whole for making the creation of Conversion not only possible, but worthwhile.
Thanks again for joining us, and best of luck on this and future projects!
Before we close, bs angel is back with another Screenshot Spotlight.
Screenshot Spotlight - Ricochet
Previously, we turned the spotlight on the Energy Sword. This week, we decided to go with Halo 4's newest game type. Take a gander at the following Ricochet screenshots, and then capture your own for your chance at being featured in next week's Bulletin.
For your chance at being in the next spotlight, take a screenshot that is predominately orange. Then tag it with "Orange" and "Halo Waypoint", and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!
Until next week,