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22 January 2014
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The Halo Bulletin: 1.22.14

01.22.2014 16:56

The Halo Bulletin

It is widely know that Seattle is home to a long list of incredible things. Just a few of those things are:

  • The tastiest coffee in the world
  • A NFC Championship-winning football team
  • Year round sunshine

While the last one may be a slight exaggeration (or even an outright lie by some standards), the second one is quite a popular topic in not only our city, but also our studio. So popular, in fact, that one of our administrators spotted two employees in 49ers jerseys last Friday, and proceeded to disable their badge access to the building for the entirety of the day. Come Monday, their badges worked again, but we can't be certain if this was due to the Seahawks victory, or the fact that they were no longer dressed in red and gold. Possibly both.

In addition to the (necessary) precaution of only allowing home team jerseys in the studio, each week, proud 343'ers have been crowding around the life-size Master Chief (who stands guard in the 343 lobby) and sending the Seahawks our support for the next game. We aren't surprised that the Chief's lucky 6XL shirt has led the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII, and can't wait to watch our home team play in the big game.

343'ers huddle around the Master Chief before the NFC Championship game

While we can't say for sure which team at the studio has the most Seahawk pride, we do know that the Matchmaking Sytems Team has been working on a special surprise for Super Bowl weekend. Let's check in with their department to see what's going on, as well as what's coming soon.

Matchmaking Playlist Update

Just this Monday, Team DLC became our featured Matchmaking playlist, and new game types were added to Action Sack and Team Doubles. For all the juicy info about what's new, check out the 1.20 Matchmaking Update. Also, keep an eye out for big XP rewards on daily challenges for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays as well as weekly challenges. While we know that many players have reached SR-130, these bonuses should give a boost for players that are working on getting closer to that goal.

Halo Spartan Bowl

As I started to say, the studio is getting quite excited about Super Bowl weekend, and the team (after huddling together - HA) agreed that it would be cool to offer a special edition playlist in Matchmaking at the end of the month to coincide with the big game.

Those who hopped into Halo 4 Matchmaking on Thanksgiving weekend in November may remember the football-themed Turkey Bowl playlist, which featured "touchdowns only" Ricochet on a custom football field, designed by the Grifball guru and Forge expert Nokyard. For Super Bowl weekend, we're bringing the game type back, on an updated (new and improved!) virtual football field, and select team colors which may or may not reflect two of the top teams in a certain football league (Go, Hawks!). The playlist, which is called the Halo Spartan Bowl, will be available from Friday, January 31st through Sunday, February 2nd, so you'll have ample time to play before and after the big game. We'll have more info as well as a preview of the game type next week on Waypoint.

Team Slayer Top 200 Season 1

After eight weeks of slaying, season 1 of the Halo 4 Team Slayer Top 200 has come to a close! Earlier today, we posted the final top 200 on Waypoint. We'd like to once again congratulate these top players for their placings in the inaugural season. The top ten players are...

Top 200

To see the full list for season 1, head here. To start competing in season 2, simply head into the Team Slayer Playlist and join the action! You can track your CSR (Competitive Skill Rank) for the playlist by visiting your Halo 4 Service Record. To learn more about CSR, head here.

Community Choice: SWAT Game Types

Our next Matchmaking Update is on February 3rd, and we're asking YOU to once again decide which game type is playable! In our newest Community Choice Poll, we want to know which objective game type you'd like to see added to the voting options in the SWAT playlist. Vote for your top choice, and stop by next week's Bulletin to read which option is the winner!

In a SWAT CTF setting, your flag carrier is always at risk from a long range headshot, so map control is more important than ever.

Players need to be bold and ballsy in SWAT Oddball, where the key is grabbing the ball and then finding the best hiding spot possible, and locking it down with your team.

King of the Hill
In SWAT King of the Hill teams must work together to control all sightlines into the hill - a nearly impossible task which often results in fast paced, tug-o-war game play.

Head here to vote on the Waypoint forums. Voting will be open for approximately four days. Next week we'll announce the Community Choice winner along with the Matchmaking Update!

Mortal Dictata: Out Now

Karen Traviss' final book in the Kilo-Five trilogy is now available! We recently had a chance to chat with Traviss about the entire trilogy, as well as get some exclusive insight into the just-released novel.For author insight into the trilogy, characters, and much more, head here. If you'd like to get a sneak peek into the story, check out the prologue and chapter one excerpt on Waypoint here, and if you get sucked in (warning: you will), read the chapter two excerpt over at Tor.com, and then (once you're really sucked in), grab the novel in whichever digital or physical means you find preferable.

Community Interview: The Fated Fire

Over the past few months, I've had the privilege of interviewing people from all around the Halo community. This week I sat down with another Forge superstar, The Fated Fire, who has several maps in Halo 4 Matchmaking that you may have romped around on. Read on for insight into some of his projects, aspirations, and general Forge wizardry.

Hey, The Fated Fire! Thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with me. Some (myself included) might say this interview is long overdue!

Hey, Bravo! Thank you for having me. It is an honor to be granted this opportunity to discuss my level design work through Forge and to provide aspiring forgers some insight on my level design theories and creation workflow.

For those who aren't aware, can you tell us about some of your Halo 4 projects and maps that are in Matchmaking?

My specialization is focused in the competitive 2v2 and 4v4 map design category. I am the creator of the Matchmaking maps "The Ark" and "Black Site" and many other competitive 2v2 and 4v4 experiences such as Ender, Wildfire, and Venom. I also recently designed an Action Sack map called Meta Raid for the popular Husky Raid custom games experience.

The Ark is an asymmetrical 2v2 and 4v4 multiplayer map designed for Slayer, King of the Hill, 1-Site Extraction, and Oddball. The addition of Sprint as a default gameplay mechanic in Halo 4 presented level designers with the task of creating multiplayer experiences that amplified the positive traits of Sprint based movement such as sprint jumps and increased combat encounters while also ensuring that positioning relevance still existed, and that escaping encounters was not too easy. The Ark is the culmination of several months spent experimenting with perfecting this balance, resulting in a complex combination of intersecting lines of sight and flow design that makes sprinting away from combat just as risky as confronting it. The Ark was used at the European i50 Winter Championships and has since found its home in Halo 4 Matchmaking as a Team Snipers and Team Doubles map.

Black Site, and its Forge Island successor Ender, is an inverse symmetrical 4v4 multiplayer map designed for Capture the Flag. This multiplayer map features an extremely fast paced CTF experience that forces the flag pulling team to confront the entire enemy team multiple times before capturing, including a very chaotic final battle right at the flag stand that often results in massive death counts on both sides before the flag is finally captured. This design has evolved several times throughout its development, specifically the evolution of top mid and the addition of two new flank routes on the successor Ender. Black Site was used as a tournament CTF experience shortly after Halo 4's launch, and has since found its home in Halo 4 Matchmaking as a Rumble Pit, SWAT, and Flood map.

Meta Raid is a symmetrical Capture the Flag map designed to provide an enhanced Husky Raid experience, which was just added to Action Sack this past Monday. Husky Raid is a linear Capture the Flag experience that funnels players wielding random primary and secondary weapons into combat through a death valley. The running joke is that the map is called Meta Raid because the players raided all the meta-game from the map since, you know, it is basically just a long hallway.

What originally attracted you to Forge? Have you always considered yourself a creator?

I have always considered myself a creator. I am an artist, musician, and level designer, and my world creating experience started in my much younger years back when I would create massive cities and towns out of Legos for my friends and I to play in. I have been very attached to the Halo franchise since the onset, and I have been forging ever since the creation tool was first implemented in Halo 3.

What are your favorite types of maps to work on? Which map(s) are you most proud of? (any Halo title)

2v2 and 4v4 competitive experiences and designing maps that enable those experiences is my favorite area of map design study and creation. I am most proud of my map "The Ark", which I consider my trademark competitive experience on this title, and a recent 2v2 map I designed called "Venom".

Venom is an asymmetrical arena that is founded on the radical movement option concept of acid pit flanks. The map is built above an acid pit that when entered drains player shields at a -25% decay. This risk of losing shields is balanced by the reward of quick and hidden movement which is key to flanking enemy players and flushing out power positions. Within the acid pit there is a safe zone that functions as an Overshield generator. This safe zone not only prevents your shields from dropping, but if the player remains within the safe zone for the designated time period they will gain a 1x layer Overshield. This Overshield generation is balanced by a 50% damage resistance trait while within the safe zone, meaning the player is 2x as vulnerable to damage. Smart players learn to pre-grenade the generator just to make sure there is not any enemy players charging up. Venom also features an extraction site and hill location in the acid pit, creating new meta-game in controlling an objective. Venom is full of tactical jumps and complex movement options such as one-way portals and lifts, effectively creating a unique 2v2 experience to Halo.

For the aspiring Forgers reading, what are some helpful tips or tricks that help creators get the most out of Forge?

The most important step in level design is deciding on the experience that the level is intended to deliver. The very first step in my creation workflow is imagining a unique and competitive gameplay experience that I want to build for. I imagine player encounters and specific gameplay experiences in my mind before even entering Forge. The ultimate purpose of the actual physical map design is to enable this experience or set of experiences to occur on the level. To get the most out of Forge, decide on your experience and plan out your physical level design on paper or through a visual program like Google Sketch-up before laying your first piece.

You've recently started working with the Community Cartographers on various Matchmaking projects. Any projects that you've really enjoyed?

The Community Forge Ricochet contest hosted by 343 Industries, Certain Affinity, and the Community Cartographers was a really awesome project to work on. I think the Ricochet game type was a great addition to the Halo multiplayer experience, both for its competitive merit and the overall fun factor of the gameplay experience. It was really cool working with the Community Cartographer team and testing maps with several Certain Affinity staff in order to deliver an interesting combination of Ricochet purposed forge maps for Matchmaking.

Lastly, what are you up to these days, and where can people keep track of your work?

My final Forge project is a Construct successor called Takedown. I may or may not end up releasing this project depending on if I can optimize frame rate performance. Here is a preview:

Past this, I am pursuing a career in the game industry as a professional level designer. I am currently mastering programs such as UDK, 3Ds Max, and Maya and building up my level design resume for an application to a game development studio. I will remain active as a Community Cartographer throughout this process, using the knowledge I have gained working with the competitive community to optimize gameplay experiences and spawning systems in Matchmaking.

You can check out my File Share here, and find me on Twitter here.

Thanks for joining me today, The Fated Fire, and thanks for all the awesome maps and experiences that you've created!

It was a pleasure and an honor. Thanks again for having me, Bravo!

Screenshot Spotlight: Explosion

Last week, we turned the spotlight on the Deadeye helmet. This week, we decided to go with big -Yoink!- blasts. Take a gander at the following explosion screenshots, and maybe even find inspiration to make your own.

For your chance at being in the next spotlight, take a nature-themed screenshot, and then tag it with "Nature" and "Halo Waypoint", and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!

And with that, this week's Bulletin comes to a close.

Until next week,