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21 December 2011
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The Halo Bulletin: 12.21.11

22. December 2011 00:52

One Frank One Meat

This is not the Halo 4 information you're looking for.

If you were to sneak a peek into the Halo 4 oven, your willing eyes would instantly be tempted with numerous tantalizing treats. Then, as the mouthwatering aroma slowly enveloped you in its enticing embrace, your mouth would begin salivating, your stomach would growl with impatience, and your brain would melt into a pile of mush while you struggled with the decision of what to devour first.

While the timer continues to tick, our Forerunner feast is not yet ready. We will be giving you a taste before it's finished, and several of them at that, but the associated dates loom in the distance. Thus, one of my New Year's resolutions is to successfully sneak you the tiniest of tidbits from within the depths of our still sealed casket. Those morsels will not satiate your ravenous appetite. They will, however, whet it.

I'll let you know when I figure out a way to get you this information without losing my job. Until then, consider it not here. Until it is here, that is. With that being said, let's move on to something I can talk freely about. And guess what? I even have screenshots for this piece of news!

Happy Halodays

Halo: Anniversary Dashboard Theme

Many of you have Anniversary happily spinning in your disc tray. While you've been reliving your ten-year-old Campaign and Multiplayer memories, though, your newly designed Xbox 360 Dashboard has been left in the dust. We couldn't stand its gloom-pleas'd eyes any longer, so to remedy its embarrassingly bare state, we are releasing a Halo: Anniversary Theme on December 22. That's tomorrow, if your concept of time is as warped as mine. Here are some screenshots of the dashboard adornments. (And I would have tried to make that last sentence rhyme as the previous one did, but seriously, what rhymes with "adornments?" Besides "reborn hints," anyway.)

Halo: Anniversary Theme Halo: Anniversary Theme
Halo: Anniversary Theme Halo: Anniversary Theme
Halo: Anniversary Theme Halo: Anniversary Theme

You can get this nostalgia-filled image bundle for 240 Microsoft Points. We'll have a link for you tomorrow, so check back then if you find your interest adequately piqued.

Happy Halodays

Everything you need to know about ATLAS in five minutes or less.

While we're thrilled to give your console some love in the form of a new theme, we're equally excited about ATLAS being available on Windows Phone, iOS, and Android mobile devices. Our brand new strategy app launched on December 10, and since then, we have already made it available in 22 additional countries (those newly added countries being Japan, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Russia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and India).

We will continue to update this experience, but for now, here are three tips for better ATLAS living, brought to you by one of our many amazing Halo Waypoint producers. His name is Justin, but I call him Mr. Super Smart Dude Who Says a Lot of Big Words I Don't Understand. You can call him Mr. SSDWSaLoBWIDU for short, if you'd like, since that rolls off the tongue so nicely.

Having spent the last couple of months building ATLAS, I've had a chance to learn how to use it effectively. So, I thought that it would be helpful to put together a quick post on how I use it, and how you can use it best, too!

"Follow me" mode

ATLAS has a "follow me" mode. Whenever you join a game in progress, "follow me" is on automatically. You can tell that "follow me" is on because the reticle icon glows blue.


When "follow me" is on, the map will move with you throughout the game. Whether you're sprinting or flying across the map in a Falcon, "follow me" keeps track of you and moves the map with you, so that you don't have to drop the controller for a second!

Tip - If you do touch the screen to pan around or zoom, "follow me" automatically disengages. This is so it doesn't get in your way by moving the map when you'd really like to inspect a weapon, or see where your teammates are.

Weapons, vehicles, and health packs, oh my!

When you open a map in ATLAS, you might find yourself immediately overwhelmed with the available weapons and vehicles. Layer on your teammates, and you might just find yourself wondering where the map went! No problem, though, because you can individually turn on or off any equipment type on the map. That way, you can reduce the clutter and find exactly what you need.


On a phone, tap the Legend button in the lower-left corner of ATLAS. Then, tap on the equipment that you want to show or hide.


On a slate or tablet, just tap on the equipment in the legend in the lower-left corner of the screen. You'll notice that the items immediately appear or disappear from the map.


Tip – Some devices with limited memory (such as the iPod Touch or some Android phones) have a hard time keeping up when there are a lot of items on the map. To improve the experience, try reducing the clutter.

Aerial and illustrated maps

ATLAS includes support for most Halo: Reach maps (with the exception of Forge World variants), including the maps that came with the game, and every map pack. That means that there are over 30 maps in ATLAS for you to explore.

There are two available views for each map – Aerial, and Illustrated.

Think of aerial view as what you'd see from a satellite. It's a high-resolution overhead view that you can use to inspect terrain in amazing detail. Find the best ledge to snipe from, or identify that obscured pathway that'll lead your team right to the enemy flag.


Illustrated view is great for maps with lots of interior areas; use it to find your way through a building or a tight corridor. Wondering where that staircase takes you, or where that left turn in a tunnel really leads? The illustrated maps in ATLAS were created by Brady Games to aid you in making the best strategic decision at that split second in the game where going left or right could lead to that highly elusive win or that much dreaded loss.


Tip – ATLAS maintains your view as you swap between Aerial and Illustrated view, so don't be shy. Take a peek at both while you study the map.

That's all for now, so get out there, Spartan, and lead your team to victory!

You heard the man. Get to it, already! But only after you finish reading the Bulletin, of course. What, you thought I'd let you off the hook that easily? It's like we've never even met…

Happy Halodays

Everything you need to know about Custom Challenges in 1,000 words or less.

Because I am all about getting other people to do my work, I grabbed another Halo Waypoint producer, this time Humberto, and asked him to write 1,000 words about our Custom Challenges feature. He only came up with 938, so while I take him out back for 62 lashings, you can read his almost-up-to-par tutorial.

Custom Challenges are a feature that allows players to create Challenges for Halo: Reach. They can issue these Challenges to their friends to try to complete within a limited time-frame.

Here is how you can access Custom Challenges:

On Web

  1. Go to http://halowaypoint.com.

  2. Click on 'Sign In' at the top of the site.

  3. Sign in with your Xbox LIVE credentials.

  4. Once signed in, click your gamertag at the top of the site, which will then show your Career drop-down menu.

    Custom Challenges

  5. Custom Challenges are on the right side of the drop-down menu. Move your mouse over and click View Challenges.

  6. This opens up the Challenges page, which includes the Daily and Weekly Halo: Reach challenges at the top, and the Custom Challenges section below that.

    Custom Challenges

On Xbox 360

  1. Launch Waypoint.

  2. Select your Player Card (Career panel) .

  3. Navigate left twice, to the Custom Challenges panel, and press A.

On Windows Phone

  1. Launch Waypoint.

  2. Select your Player Card (Career panel).

  3. Pan twice to the right, or once to the left, to the Custom Challenges panel.

    Custom Challenges

You can create challenges on both web and Windows Phone, by specifying some variables and constraints, including time limit, game mode, etc. Once the challenge is created, you can issue the challenge to up to seven Xbox LIVE friends. Whoever accepts the challenge is then competing to see if they can finish the challenge within the allotted time. Time starts as soon as the challenge is issued, and the creator is auto-included.

Once you accept or create a challenge, you will be participating until the timer expires. The challenge takes up one of your active slots (you have five), and it will remain there until the timer expires, you Forfeit, or you complete and turn in the challenge.

Since this feature was built after Halo: Reach was released, Custom Challenges are not tracked directly inside of the game. However, you can track your challenges on any Waypoint client on console, web or your phone.

We track 'how well' each user completed the challenge. For example, if the challenge is to kill 100 Grunts, and someone killed 150, we will record that higher number, not just 'pass/fail'. We will sort the results, and track 1st place when there is more than one participant, as well as anyone who met the base goal to beat the challenge. Challenges are tracked on the player's challenge page, and totals are tracked (total complete, total 1st place) and shown in the Reach Service Record section for the player.

Custom Challenges have these elements:

  • Name

  • Variants: Matchmaking Multiplayer, Campaign, Matchmaking Firefight, Custom (Custom includes custom Firefight and custom Multiplayer games)

  • Time limit (3 to 72 hours)

  • Goal type

    • Kills
    • Kills with a specific weapon
    • Kills of a specific enemy
    • Headshots
    • Wins
    • Medals

  • Goal amount (1 – 9999)

  • Optional constraints: map, difficulty, skulls (for Campaign)

Participants are stack-ranked based on progress towards the goal (e.g. 175/200 kills so far for Joey). At the end, any participants that met or exceeded the goal get recorded as having completed the challenge and are awarded the amount of credits the challenge was worth. In Custom Challenges with two or more people, the person with the top goal amount also receives a 1st place recognition.

Here is a table showing the various goal types, and how they are supported or not across Game Types:

      1.1.1 Table of Goals
Goal Campaign Matchmaking Firefight Matchmaking Multiplayer Custom (MP and Firefight)
Kills >= N X X X X
Headshots >= N X X X X
Total Medals >= N X X X X
Kills w/ weapon >= N X X   X
Kills of enemy >= N X X   X
Wins >= N     X X
Medals of group type >= N   X   X

(Groups = Legendary, Multi-Kill, Sprees, Weapon & Style, Objective)

Although you can have multiple active challenges at the same time, you can't have two of the same type of goal simultaneously. For example, if you already have a Campaign Kills goal, you cannot create or accept another challenge for Campaign Kills, Campaign Kills with weapon, or Campaign Kills of enemy.

On the other hand, you can still have Firefight Kills, or Custom Kills, or Multiplayer Kills active goals, since those are different game variants.

Headshots is also a 'duplicate' of Medals, since every headshot you get earns you a medal. This means you cannot have a Headshots and Medals goal for the same game variant active at the same time.

In some modes you can add additional constraints:

      1.1.2 Table of Constraints
Constraint Campaign Matchmaking Firefight Matchmaking Multiplayer Custom (MP and Firefight)
"NO DNF"     X (automatic)  
Map X     X
Difficulty X      
Skulls X      
Credits Awards

When a challenge is created, Waypoint calculates a credit amount for that Challenge, based on the type and on the goal specifics. There are maximum amounts for each Challenge type, so after a certain level of challenge difficulty, all challenges are worth the maximum amount.

There is also a daily credit maximum cap, which means that although you have no limit on how many challenges you can technically participate in during a day, you will be limited in how many total credits you can earn each day.

Credit values may vary over time, as we adjust the feature based on how everyone is using Custom Challenges.

To get you started on making your own Custom Challenges, I enlisted the help of four community members. What, you didn't think I would actually do it myself, did you?

From Greenskull of Ready Up Live:

When confronted with the task of creating a challenge that caters to my unique and specific community, I knew right from the start what it had to involve: shenanigans. I know how much the Ready Up Live community members love messing around and having a good time in Halo, so we looked into the most preposterous and silly challenges we could make.

Thus, Who Needs a Weapon? was born. Your goal is to kill 13 enemy Spartans with Collision Damage in a custom game. That means using objects in the environment to end the life of your opponent. It will require a bit of Forging magic to get it just right, but if you're resourceful you might be able to figure out your own way to accomplish the task. The challenge is only worth a mere 31 credits, but that's how we roll at RUL. It isn't about winning or losing, it's about going nuts and having a good time!

Custom Challenges

Challenge Name: Who Needs a Weapon?
Challenge Type: Custom
Goal: Kills with weapon
Type: Collision Damage
Target: 13
Time Limit: 24 Hours
Constraints: Map - Forge World
Payoff: 31 cR

From Slightly Live of Forward Unto Dawn:

The Yanme'e are often the most overlooked of the Covenant species, and it's high time for a closer inspection. This challenge should appeal to fans that appreciate the width and breadth of Halo's wide variety of enemies. And masochists. The idea came from the painful realization that the Yanme'e are quite overlooked and under-utilized in the game. All are equal under the banner of the Covenant, even annoying buggers.

Custom Challenges

Challenge Name: Yanme'e Yanyo'u
Challenge Type: Campaign
Goal: Kills of Enemy
Type: Drone Infantry
Target: 100
Time Limit: 60
Constraints: Heroic + Cloud, Famine, Tilt, Mythic and Blind Skulls
Payoff: 357 cR

From ContactTango of The Spartan 1 Project:

I had the members of The Spartan 1 Project work on this, and I got dozens of entries. Here is my favorite. Enjoy!

Custom Challenges

Challenge Name: The Tango Special (our member named this after me because of my affinity for the shotty)
Challenge Type: Custom
Goal: Kills with weapon
Type: Shotgun - M45 TS
Target: 300
Time Limit: 24 hours
Constraints: Map - Holdout
Payoff: 3,433 cR

From Puptastrophe of GrifballHub:

I went with a challenge based on wins. I named it "Just Win, Yo" and any playlist will do!

Custom Challenges

Challenge Name: Just Win, Yo
Challenge Type: Matchmaking Multiplayer
Goal: Wins
Target: 75
Time Limit: 48 hours
Payoff: 15,825 cR

These amazing challenges have inspired me so much that I'm toying with the idea of accepting one community-submitted custom challenge per week, and then attempting to complete it. Time will tell if I'm truly a glutton for punishment…

Happy Halodays

A Brand New Sparkast

While I've been sitting here debating if I'm brave enough to step up to the Custom Challenge plate, the very dapper David Ellis has been busy auto-adjusting his velvet voice just for your sensitive earholes. From the rather debonair man himself:

With various teams taking time off to recharge their batteries, it's a little quiet around some parts of 343. Fear not, we're ending the year in fine form with a brand spanking new Sparkast. While we're not quite ready to throw open the doors on the topic everyone keeps asking about (it's a Frank O'Connor plushy with removable beard, btw), we did want to take a little time to reflect on 2011.

This year has been important for the studio because it was the first time we've been able to talk about we've been working on in relative anonymity for so long. And as we continue the journey to bring Master Chief back from cryo storage, we find ourselves transforming from a group of very talented people tossed together over the last couple of years into a unified army of artists, designers, producers, and others who are working day and night to bring this vision to fruition.

On a personal note, I want to thank each and every one of you who has subscribed and listened to the 343 Sparkast this year. Without you, Frank and I wouldn't have the chance to put these shows together. I hope the hours of content we've put out this year have been worth your time, and I certainly look forward to introducing you to more of our studio in the coming year.

As always, you can subscribe and download the Sparkast through a variety of places.

Download here (Right-click and Save As)

Or subscribe:

RSS Zune iTunes

Happy Halodays

January Matchmaking Playlist Update

Speaking of much of the studio being out on vacation right now, we were originally not planning on doing a Halo: Reach Matchmaking playlist update in January. One rather dedicated soul, though, decided that wasn't acceptable. So, he's come in day after day, determined to kick this one out. I won't have the particulars for you until early next month, but I can confirm this: he's starting to look like one of the reanimated corpses from Night of the Living Dead. Must be all the hours he's pulling…

And with that, I'm putting a bow on this sucker and calling it done. Until January, my friends…

(And yes, you read that right. There will not be a Halo Bulletin next week. In its place, you will get a sneak peek at Halo: Primordium, the second book in Greg Bear's Halo Forerunner Saga, which is slated to be released on January 3. I hope you enjoy the one-week break from my ramblings. In fact, consider it my holiday gift to you. <3)

Happy Holidays from everybody at 343,
bs angel

P.S. I may or may not have almost forgotten your Friday Caption Fun wallpaper of the week. Ignore my faulty memory, embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest article to contribute your hilarious quip. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

P.P.S. Discuss.